Grooming a horse tail
Careful not to break the hair use gentle conditioners
Longer, hotter and humid days can take their toll on manes and tails. It is imperative to take care of the parts of our horses that help protect them from bugs and the elements.
HELP FROM THE INSIDE OUT
Nutrition plays a huge role in promoting a healthy and shiny mane and tail. Make sure you are feeding the proper ratio of essential minerals iodine, copper, and zinc, vitamin B and good fats from Omega fatty acids, as well as essential amino acids like lysine and methionine. Chia, hemp seed or flax rich in Omega 3s are always a good addition to regular rations to promote healthy, shiny coats.
Natural oils in manes and tails keep the hair follicle and shaft shiny and healthy. Adding good quality probiotics to your horse’s ration is also an excellent way to prevent any fungal overgrowth that can lead to sweet itch. Excessive dandruff may also be a sign of yeast overgrowth, something probiotics can help with as well.
Black sunflower seeds are a natural sunscreen and work from the inside out to provide protection. Nutmeg or Paprika can be also fed to horses to boost color. Make sure if you are showing that you DO NOT use paprika; it may test positive for Capsaicin, which is illegal under USEF rules.
When summer heat, dust, sun, and wind come into play, tails may become more dry, brittle and sun-bleached, while manes start to look dusty and thin with lots of breakage. Horses sweat a lot, leading to increased itching and a desire to scratch. Some owners tend to bathe too often in the summer. Excessive shampooing with a wrong kind of shampoo will strip natural oils from the hair shaft. Always make sure you are using gentle shampoo that is free of harsh sulfates and contains plenty of natural moisturizing ingredients. Traditional shampoos and silicone-based coat shines do more harm than good and tend to strip oils from the hair and actually leave it more brittle and prone to breakage. When selecting a detangler, bear in mind that traditional products will leave the mane and tail shiny and easier to brush through, but the build up of silicones does not let the follicle breathe and more breakage occurs. Alcohol-based detanglers tend to further dry out already moisture-starved manes and tails.
If you live in an area where ticks are common, a tick or two sucking away at your horse’s base of a tail can drive him to a tail rubbing frenzy. Peppermint or Eucalyptus essential oil balm applied on the dock of the tail will make it less attractive to ticks. Avoid spraying your horse’s tail with harsh chemical fly sprays, as they will irritate already itchy skin even more. Always rule out a dirty sheath/vulva and make sure that your deworming program is up to date, as these are two other root causes of a rubbed tail.
Oils like coconut, jojoba or sunflower oil can be used to soothe and moisturize your horse’s base of the tail and hair. These oils make a great alternative to a regular detangler. Essential oils such as Tea Tree, Lemon or Lavender can be used to help with sweet itch when used topically on irritated spots to soothe the skin and stop rubbing. Always properly dilute concentrated essential oils, especially Tea Tree, because, although it acts as an anti-fungal, it also tends to dry out the skin, which is the last thing you want.
IN THE END....
When speaking about manes and tails, there is always something to be said about proper brushing technique. Finger brush tails first and always start from the bottom 1/4 up to the base. Use a brush/comb only after you’ve separated knots with your fingers and keep brushing to a minimum. Trim the last inch or two every couple of months to get rid of dead ends and promote healthy hair growth. Long manes can be braided in the summer to keep your horse's neck cool and to keep the mane neat. Tails can be bagged, but be sure to provide your horse with a fly-swatting mechanism when turned out.
By following these guidelines and tips, you can have a jaw-dropping, healthy, shiny mane and tail throughout the summer months.
Petra Z. McGowan is Founder and President of EcoLicious Equestrian Inc. Stephanie Ruud is a Grooming Expert and Copywriter. EcoLicious Equestrian is a grooming/horse care product line formulated without sulfates, silicones, parabens and artificial fragrances. www.ecoliciousequestrian.com